Captains Blog / May 21

Captain’s Blog: Chapter 7

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Just the other day, I found myself reflecting on the “Business Decision Maker Audience.” The sound of those words brings back such great memories. For many years, I ran the digital business operations for Washington Post, Newsweek, Slate, and Budget Travel. It was actually a wonderful time! I was able to be one of the early pioneers in the media world on the Internet.

Back in the early 2000’s, The Washington Post, Newsweek and Slate were important players in the subset of publishers that were known as “premium publishers.” Agencies and clients wanted their brands to be affiliated with such esteemed publishers. Routinely, our premium ad positions on the homepages, or key section headers, were sold out. We were able to garner very high CPM’s for our ad units above the fold. On the homepage, those prices for an above the fold takeover could bring in 7 figures!

This was a time before networks and at a time where most media buyers would put plans in place publisher by publisher. We quickly wanted to brand our valuable audience for our advertisers. We called the Post’s readers, “The Business Decision Maker Audience” and while we may not have fully realized all the data and audience implications of today, that was our first stab at audience, and it related very well with our advertisers. At the time, we knew our primary audience was the readers that the biggest brands wanted to be in front of with their products.

We conducted a lot of serious research around the Business Decision Maker Audience. The Washington Post was one of a handful of publishers that had an impact on all businesses because no matter where you lived, understanding what was going on in Washington, DC was imperative to your business.

We still had one significant challenge at Washingtonpost.com, and that was selling ad inventory that was not in premium placements on the page. These were the ads below the fold. We decided to sell those positions at discounted prices. We called it remnant inventory and it sold at 25-50% of full retail ad positions. In essence, at Washingtonpost.com, we created the very first ad network. I vividly remember arguments with the sales team who wanted to ensure that their clients paying full price and receiving premium placements understood the advantage of this placement while clients that purchased remnant inventory at a fraction of the cost also saw value.

Then, the industry started to solve the problem and there was a huge rise of ad networks. This transformed the world of media planning because now they could have their brand running across the entire gamut of the Internet with one plan and usually at reduced CPMs. They took advantage of the long tail of the Internet (a great many smaller sites). The only things that the media planner had to plan out differently were page takeovers as well as other non-standard units.

For a period of time, ad networks were all the rage and they made a lot of money, although they lacked one important piece to their business. The networks were still centered around the placement and not enough toward the audience. Enter stage right the DSP (Demand Side Platform), which operated like a mini stock exchange matching up buyers and sellers of online display and video based upon audiences and cost. These platforms really were excellent at ingesting data (so much data) and using it to produce custom audiences so that the media planner’s role shifted again away from publishers and toward targeting the right audiences at the right price in order to create efficient plans.

The one constant throughout this span of about 20 years is that marketing technology is in a constant state of change and evolution. As an industry, today we are mostly audience-based and with AI and machine learning, we have retired the “spray and pray” mentality. Instead, we are getting to one-to-one marketing based on consumer behaviors, preferences, actions, and reviews.

Our pirate ship at iFrog is built for adaptive change and innovation. We have implemented our Next Frontier program which is all about AI, machine learning and data. Ultimately, we are committed to getting increased media ROI for our clients. The pirate culture is about a sustainable competitive advantage and better, more effective marketing. We sure have come a long way from remnant inventory at the bottom of the page.

It’s your time! If you are ready for the Next Frontier, hit me up 24/7 at kt@ifrog.com to get the conversation started!

As always, stay safe and be a pirate! #ifrogmarketing, #pirates, #oneteamonemission

Keith Tomatore

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